Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Year Of Living Cautiously

Back when the Democratic primary was in full flame, I supported Dennis Kucinich. Kooch (as he is affectionatly known in some areas of the webway) is considered a kook-end radical leftie in the States, someone one step away from Mao but I'm English and, odd personal habits aside, he'd be a perfectly respectable LibDem here. But the American electorate are stupid (as is the electorate in every country) and, unlike most countries, the American media is entirely corporate owned and led and tilts so far right that they can make people believe the centreist Obama is further left than Stalin. So Kooch was out pretty much before the race started. Then I supported John Edwards because he was the only one saying anything much about poverty. But Edwards was removed (and, as it turned out, fatally compromised anyway).

So that left Hillary and Obama. And for a long time, I thought either would do. By their own admission, their policies were virtually identical. Hillary's healthcare plan was better but she seemed to have a rather hawkish foreign policy. Hillary has very high negatives but Obama had almost zero experiance. Obama had Rev Wright (Ayers was never an issue) but Hillary had made some really fucking moronic comments about violent video games. So, not much to choose between them. In the end, it came down to that wonderful speech Obama made about race to end the Rev. Wright fiasco. No, not because it was some transformative political experiance. I'm not that naive. No, that changed my mind because it was the first time in about twenty years that I can remember a politician (apart from Kooch) addressing the public as if they were adults who could understand nuance, subtlety and context. And that swung me for Obama. Not by much, not a die-hard supporter by any means but he would do. Decent guy, no real skeletons in the closet (no, Fox's 24/7 attempts to turn Ayers and Wright into skeletons don't count, Fox would have personally murdered Obama by now if they could), policies about as liberal as is possible in the US and certainly as possible as the ultraright American media (that is, all of it bar about four hours a day on MSNBC) would allow, kids are cute as a button. Yeah, he'll do. So I supported Obama but not with any great enthuasiasm. I'm a die-hard liberal and there are only about a dozen liberals in the entire US government and Obama isn't and never was one of them. But of the unappetising options, I went for that one. I was pleased when he brought Hillary into the Cabinet since I thought that would be the best of both worlds although I thought she would have fit better at HHS than State (remember, I think her healthcare plan was better) but still, good move.

So why am I now wondering if we've been hoodwinked here?

Well, there's a lot of reasons but let's start with gay rights. Now, personally, I think gay marriage (or an identical-in-everything-but-name arrangement like we have here) is a moral must. I think it is utterly immoral to deny gay people the chance to marry (or have the previously mentioned all-but-identical legal option). But Obama doesn't agree and we knew that going in and, with the exception of Kooch, nor did anyone else so we shouldn't have expected agreement on that one. What Obama did say he would support though, was civil partnership, the repeal of DOMA and the repeal of the asinine Don't-Ask, Don't-Tell. Current score is that DADT is still on the books, Obama hasn't ordered it to stop being enforced pending a full repeal (which could be done by executive order fairly quickly) and he hasn't mentioned repealing DOMA in months. His administration has actually defended DOMA (their obligation, as I understand it) and done so in the most repulsive terms (certainly not their obligation). Oh yeah, and he invited Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration but I'm willing to let that slide as just a tin-eared mistake.

But perhaps you say Obama has been too busy trying to stop the economy imploding to devote time to gay rights issues? That's a reasonable arguement. So what has been done about the economy? The stimulus package passed was far too small and too much of it was tax cuts (in terms of stimulus, tax cuts are exactly the least effective method). Tim Geithner was installed at the Treasury and the right instantly tried to drum up the story that he was a tax cheat. Actually, all they proved is that the tax code is impossible for humans to understand. That's not my problem with Timmy. My problem with him is that he's a Wall Street bootlick, he's inculated in that Wall St culture where, as Michael Douglas said (and incidently, summed up Ayn Rand's entire "philosophy" in three words) "greed is good". Maybe the bailout was necessary, that's certainly a reasonable argument (albeit, one I disagree with) but were the collosal bonuses really necessary? Was there any reason not to pass legislation limiting those bonuses to, say, a figure one human could concievably spend in a lifetime? Don't misunderstand me, there's a lot of blame to go around for the financial implosion. Reagan's decimation of the middle class and stripping the Republicans of their few principles started it; Clinton did little to repair the damage and DimBulb made it even worse and numerous CongressCritters on both sides bear some blame as well but Timmy is currently in the hot seat so he has to carry the can.

How about healthcare reform? Well, how about some? The leadership of the Obama admin on healthcare has been lacking to put it very mildly. Now, I live under a single-payer system here (the NHS). All my care, both physical and mental, is covered by taxes. That's the real left-wing option, that's what real "socialised medicine" would look like but that option was taken off the table even before the election. So, instead, the public option (which was the compromise position in the first place) has been painted as to the left of Stalin. The bill currently winding it's way through Congress includes a public option that very few people could get but that would save money (the right, as usual, are just plain lying when they say it would cost money), eliminates the pre-existing conditions barbarity and incorporates a few efficiency measures. It's better than nothing but not by much. I'm leaving the atrocious Stupak-Pitts amendment aside because, as disgusting as it is, the Obama admin had no input whatsoever on that. Why hasn't Obama been out front twisting arms (both literally and figuratively) to get this bloody thing passed? The bill which, as of writing, just passed the Senate, has no public option, no Medicare buy-in and, most importantly, no competition or incentive to lower prices. What is included is a mandate, an obligation to carry some form of insurance. Hooo boy, this is a mistake. Now, apparently, there will be subsidies for the poorest to purchase insurance (which I'd be willing to bet will be far too little) but, with no public option or Medicare buy-in, the premium you will be forced to buy will cost whatever the insurance company feels like charging.

On foreign policy, Obama can claim some successes. While Republicans keep harping on about "a worldwide apology tour" (they seem to take it as a badge of pride if the rest of the world hates them), the foreign policy team (and Sec. Clinton has been a shining example here) has been mostly successful. Iran has refused to abandon their nuclear ambitions but they would have been immovable regardless. More importantly, the majority of the western world now holds a favourable view of the USA again. That's important and not for any conservative-baiting touchy-feely reason but because it makes the rest of the western world more likely to back the US's plays.

Another minor victory was the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. The Act amends the Civil Rights Act (1964) in a minor, but very important, way. Previously, those discriminated against in pay had a 180-day "window" in which to file suit. In many cases, that would mean that the window expired before the victim was aware of the disparity in pay. The Ledbetter Act alters that so that the 180-day period "resets" with each discriminatory paycheque received. That's a relatively minor change which will make life that bit better for numerous people across the country. Congress can also be rightly proud of the Credit CARD Act, a catalogue of minor changes to credit card regulations which will, taken together, make life for users of credit cards a little easier. Predictably, the credit industry loathed it but that was to be expected. One surprise in the bill was Tom Coburn's attaching an amendment which allowed firearms to be carried in natural parks. This serves to illustrate hos ridiculous the system of unlimited amendments can get. I personally don't have any problem with the rule change but what the hell did it have to do with credit card regulation?

One last thing must be touched upon with regard to Obama's first year: The refusal to bring prosecutions, or even investigate, the war crimes committed by the Bush administration. The logic of refusing to pursue this is obvious, it would monopolise political debate in the US and allow Republicans to claim that the Obama admin was criminalising policies they disagree with (although they're already doing that). Morally, however, there is no excuse. Failing to prosecute such obvious and admitted crimes for political reasons is the height of moral cowardice.

Finally, no discussion of Obama's first year (even one as rushed and circumspect as this) would be complete without a quick examination of the right's breakdown. That the Birther's racist claims are still being voiced was perhaps to be expected; the redefining of "socialism" to mean "anything remotely on the political left" was predictable in light of how rightward the political spectrum in the US tilts but what could not have been predicted was the healthcare mobs, the "Tea parties" (whose only uniting principle seems to be hatred of Obama), the climate of intimidation and violence. All of which is rationalised by the right, excused. While a few marginal figures on the left compared Bush to Hitler, those few marginals are now used by the right to excuse the constant comparison between Obama and Hitler (ignoring that Nazism, and fascism generally, are extreme-right ideaologies). In my spare time, I study criminal psychology. Part of that is learning the difference between psychopaths and psychotics. Dick Cheney was and is a psychopath: Lacking conscience or remorse, uncaring of anyone but himself and his loved ones (psychopaths can feel love although not in the way that we do). Michelle Bachman is a psychotic, she is suffering a clear and discernable break from reality. Not in terms of things that reasonable people can disagree with like the existence or nature of God or the proper role of military force but believing in things which are provably, factually untrue. When observing the "tea party" crowd, one has to ask if it's possible for a whole segment of society to suffer from a psychotic break. Because the things this crowd believe, from "death panels" (which Palin is now attempting to claim meant a reference to rationed care) to "pulling the plug on grandma" to "taxed enough already" to the ubiquitous claim that Olbermann and Maddow are the same as Glenn Beck are immense. They can't be reconciled with reality. Moreover, they take the same form of self-preservation as many psychotics: The accusation that those pointing out the illness are themselves agents of the conspiracy against them. How does one reason with such people?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Healthcare Bill: One Part Awesome To Four Parts Suck

There are things to celebrate in this healthcare bill. Not many but there's a couple. The major one's are a ban on pre-existing conditions and recission. The pre-existing conditions thing has been an immoral, lunatic clause for years. Quite apart from anything else, it made people with lifelong conditions (diabetes, for example) either impossible or prohibitively expensive to cover. So that's a good thing. Likewise, the ban on recission is a plus. If you don't know, "recission" is a very nasty trick that insurance companies use all the time where they cut off your insurance as soon as you need it. You pay your premiums for years and, as soon as you get something expensive (cancer, say), they cut off your care. That's not insurance, that's a lottery. So that's gone too and that's a gain. Last I heard, there was also a cap on profits at 10%. That's good and 10% is reasonable but I don't have much faith it'll make any difference. I'll get to why in a second.

Now, let's get to the suck.

First off, the Medicare buy-in is dead. So is the public option. The former can be laid on Joe Lieberman, the latter on conservative Dems and Republicans generally. We'll get to them later. What isn't in the bill is even more important. There is nothing in this bill which will control costs. No additional competition for insurance companies (and I've never been convinced that would do much good anyway) and no cap on premiums. This is why I'm doubtful that a cap on profits will make any difference. If your premium was, say, $500 and insurance companies are only allowed to take 10% as profit, what's to stop them doubling your premium to a cool thousand and skimming a tenth of that? Is your care going to be twice as good? You're kidding, right? The insurance industry is not set up to pay claims. Much like the British benefits system, it's set up to deny any claim it can.

And then, there's the mandates. Now, when there was a public option, the mandate could be justified because there would have been a non-profit national option to join. But without the public option, a mandate just funnels epic amounts of cash to the insurance companies who caused this mess in the first place. Granted, there will be some subsidies but, knowing how governments do business, those subsidies won't be anything like enough.

Why is funneling people to the private insurance companies a bad thing? Doesn't the free market work? Well, it works fine for hamburgers or running shoes but it doesn't and can't work for certain things. Four or five services; water, gas, electricity and healthcare; comprise what are called "captive markets". What that means is this: When the price of a Big Mac gets too high, you just skip lunch, that's fine but with captive markets, you don't have the option of walking away from the market because without those few sectors, you cannot live in any kind of meaningful way.We all need these things and we need them all the time. Because we cannot walk away from the market, the companies which control the market can game the system, pursuing a race to the lowest common denominator at the highest price. We saw this here in England when Thatcher (and Major and Blair to a lesser extent) privatised everything in sight. The result was always the same. In every single case, prices exploded, service collapsed and standards were taken out back and shot. Now, some especially stupid conservatives will try to tell you that if this is true, why shouldn't that argument extend to food, running shoes, etc? They are either stupid or insane. That argument fails because A) it's stupid and B) food and running shoes are things which can be easily produced by individuals or small groups whereas the essential services cannot. So, there is nothing in this bill which will control prices and, indeed, every incentive for insurance companies to continue their skyrocketing prices.

Now let's play the blame game. And there's a lot to go around in this edition. On this day which bloody well should live in infamy, it would be very easy to speak of crucifying Joe Lieberman (who's being figurative?) but nailing a Jewish guy to a cross this close to Christmas would confuse the right no end. And really, Joe is just being Joe. He's a self-serving, lying little weasel and we've all known that for years, ever since he felt so entitled to his Senate seat that he started his own party rather than respect the wishes of the Democratic caucus. He's never forgiven liberals for that and, right now, he's in the "if they're for it, I'm against it" area of blind spite. But we knew this, it's a little like saying motherfuckers do indeed fuck their mothers.

We could say much the same for the Blue-Dog Democrats. I wish the media would cease calling this lot "moderates". They're not moderates. First off, the American political scene is tilted so far to the right that Obama (who constantly gets called "socialist" by stupid people) is centre-right in reality so being to the right of Obama puts you NOWHERE NEAR the centre. That's like saying halfway between Obama and Rush Limbaugh makes you a moderate. No, it still makes you bugfuck insane. And they're not moderates even by American standards, they're corporatists, brought-and-paid-for corporate shills. If the Congressional Republicans are 100% the voice of the Mega-Corporations (and they are), the Blue-Dogs are the Corps contingent in the Democratic party although, really, both parties are cults of wealth-worship. American has become a mixture of Ayn Rand's celebration of naked greed and Bill Gibson's dystopian vision of a nation run by and for the convienience of corporations. And no, conservatives, corporations are not your fucking friend.

Harry Reid has to take some blame as well. Taking reconciliation off teh table was a fucking stupid move. While reconciliation was available, Republicans and conservative Democrats had some incentive to be reasonable and compromise because if they didn't, they might just find the bill rammed through against their wishes. Without reconciliation, the conservative coalition pays absolutely no political price for naked obstructionism. They can afford to just say "NO" to everything because, without their cooperation, without "compromising" with them (and the Republican idea of compromise is "we don't budge an inch and you come to us"), nothing gets done. Conservatives like to say that if Democrats could keep their own party in order, they could pass anything and there's an element of truth to that. But it ignores that, firstly, Democrats only have 58 Senators. The two independents who caucus with the Dems are Sanders, who votes Democratic much of the time and Lieberman, who takes a perverse glee in fucking up Democratic plans. Secondly, it ignores that, outside of Congress, the media leads the people around by the nose much of teh time and the media is, for the most part, conservative (anyone who talls you there's a liberal bias in media is either lying to you or is too stupid to realise they've been lied to). Third, what the fuck have the party whips been playing at?

Finally, Obama has to take a fair amount of blame. While Obama talked a good game about healthcare reform during the primaries and campaign, he has conspicuously failed to lead while the process has been ongoing. I think his rationale was that, if he got personally involved, the bill would become about him and thus, a way to attack him. That's either charmingly or dangerously naive on Obama's part. The bill was always going to be identified with him and the Republicans were always going to lockstep vote to filibuster and/or kill absolutely anything that he wanted to see passed. Even leaving aside the numerous, mostly reliable reports that the Whitehouse (and Rahm Emmanuel especially) have repeatedly been trying to "compromise" away real reform, one has to accuse Obama of a failure to lead during this process. Instead of coming out and laying out a case for X, Y or Z reform, Obama has been passively willing to accept anything passed by Congress. Bill Clinton managed to lead his party in getting some reforms passed (not always to the good). Cheney organised the Republican party like a cult of personality and got virtually everything he wanted. Obama has been weak and failed to either lead or push his party. In general, I've been disappointed in Obama's first year. But that's a story for another time (and conservatives, that's doesn't mean I think McCain wouldn't have been worse. I don't want to be on your team, pick another kid).

So that's it. The healthcare bill is a couple of good things wrapped in a pile of suck. Is there enough good there to justify the piles of suck? I don't think so. Howard Dean (an actual doctor, so he has some credibility on this issue) doesn't think so. But it looks like it's going to pass anyway. And that's it. Healthcare won't be revisited again during Obama's presidency and probably not for another ten to fifteen years.

Oh, and did I mention that it's not going to save anything like as much money as the public option or single payer would have?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Faith

My friend Buffy ( ) recently emailed my a rather amusing assumption about Satanists. What's worrying is not this particular display of non-joined-up thinking but that people still seem to have these ideas so let's go through some of the myths about Satanists.

(UPDATE: Two corrections: The first is that, while I have heard followers of the Temple of Set refered to as "Setites" (although never by members of the Temple), the correct term is actually "Setians". Secondly, I have been informed that members of the Temple do not consider themselves Satanists. To save me rewriting this whole article and because people (including me) often think that they do, I'm leaving the article as is but let's remember that in future. Apologies and thanks to Magister Robert Adams for those corrections)

Satanists worship the Devil - Both true and false. This depends on which denomination of Satanists you're talking about. The LaVeyans (followers of Anton LaVey) don't believe in a devil and don't worship anything (except, possibly, the self). The Temple of Set (aka Setites or Setians) don't worship but do seek to emulate Set (Satan) as a model of philosophical enlightenment. Luciferians (the denomination I follow) [i]do[/i] worship Lucifer (Satan) whom we see as the kinder, fairer deity. The remaining catch-all category (which has a dozen names, mostly derogatory but which I call "Dabblers") of teen posers, shock rock musicians and the mentally unstable have a wide variety of beliefs.

Satanists sacrifice animals - Categorically false, at least with regard to the three main denominations. While animal sacrifices do happen on occasion, they are invariably linked to teen posers with no real understanding of the belief system or stoned rock muscians (Ozzy Osbourne will never live that down). In my adult lifetime, I have owned one rat and four cats. The rat died of old age. One of the cats died of conplications from FIV, which she already had when we took her in. Another died of a massive heart attack caused by a heart deformity. The other two, Sandy & Suki, are still with us and spend most of their time snoozing by the fire, eating, playing and being pampered.

Satanists sacrifice/molest babies - Again, completely untrue. Amid the Satanic Panics of the 1980s, this was often alleged but not one of the charges was ever confirmed. Even in the famous McMartin primary school case, there was not one shred of physical evidence and the stories of the children were frequently self-contradictory. It has also been alleged that Satanists keep women as "breeders" and sacrifice their offspring. Problem here, even leaving ethics aside, is that repeated pregnancies without long gaps between will cause severe internal damage to a woman's plumbing. Also, psychologically, people just don't work that way. While it is possible to brainwash someone into allowing their own child to be killed, it can't be done consistently and repeatedly. It requires close supervision and constant reinforcement, both of which would be noticed by anyone observing the woman. The saying "death to the world" which Luciferians sometimes use is not a directive to mass murder but a shorthand way of expressing a continuing process of turning away from the physical and selfish world and toward a world of spirit and service.

Satanists sacrifice something - The only things sacrificed are pinches of herbs and suchlike. They're symbolic. Lord Lucifer, to secure free will and moral self-determination for humans, sacrificed his good name, rank, place in heaven and human trust. We sacrifice a few pinches of dried herbs to remind us of that sacrifice.

Satanists hold orgies - They're recreational and entirely optional, not a required part of the faith.

Satanists have no morals - Again, completely untrue. Actually, we have a moral code which is often more exacting than those of conventional faiths because ours is not derived from a book or a preacher but arrived at through deep thought and experiance. What we do not have are sins, at least not in the conventional sense. LaVeyans don't have sins at all but they do have quite strong codes of conduct. Setites have a whole philosophy on this that I confess to not fully understanding. Luciferians have only one sin (treating another as a thing, a tool for your own gratification or glory). That is not unforgiveable but it is a big strike against you. Likewise, we don't have Holy Books in the normal sense. Conventionally, a Holy Book is treated as the final answer and discussion is limited to how to interpret it. Among Satanists, the Satanic Bible (for example) is regarded as simply the respected opinion of one man added to the discussion.

Satanists don't believe in Hell - Depends on the denomination. LaVeyans don't, Setites have their own thoughts. Luciferians believe that, although hell is ruled by Lord Lucifer, there is a corner set aside for the truly irredemable. In that corner, those who are judged to be beyond redemption will experiance the lives of everyone they have ever affected. For example, if you're Jerry Falwell, you will experiance the life of a gay man, a gay woman, a pagan, a woman in desperate need of an abortion; and you will experiance those lives over and over and over again until finally, at the end of time, you will understand fully the consequences of your actions and what they have meant. Then, perhaps, maybe, you will be able to realise why your actions were wrong.

Satanists take drugs - No more so than the congregants of any other faith. The Dabblers often do but they're teenagers who don't understand the belief system but adopt the signs and sayings because they "look cool", not because they understand what they mean.This is akin to judging Christianity by the rock stars who wear fashion crosses.

Satanists hate Christians/Muslims/Jews - Not really. We often hate their god (although some are resolved to simply ignore him) but the individual believers, we generally view as misled and misinformed, not necessarily bad (and perhaps the kinder ones would say the same of us). Nor do we "hate you for your Christ", an absurd little bit of self-serving pablum that serves to avoid responsibility for one's own actions. If we hate you, it is because of something you have done or something we have done (we are no more immune to having assholes in our ranks than any other faith). Opinions about Jesus are divided. Some believe he never existed. Personally, I think a man called Jesus lived in the area around Galilee in the early part of the first century. He was a good man with a good message of peace, love and tolerance who was eventually killed for it (as such people tend to be), was buried and remains buried still. But I do not believe he was divine. And I think the insistence that he must have been divine does a tremendous disservice to the potential for good within the human spirit.

Satanists have a vast clandestine conspiracy - Have you ever actually met a Satanist? We tend to be individualistic, argumentative people. Getting us to agree on anything is like herding cats. We can't even agree on what to call ourselves, let alone on acting in concert and in secret for years.Also, consider the sheer numbers required to pull this off. Conspiracies sometimes happen in the real world but the ones that remain secret for very long are the ones with very few people in on the secret. JFK could have been assassinated by a team of perhaps half-a-dozen and so, it's just about possible that could have been done and kept quiet. A vast conspiracy of hundreds of individuals could not be kept secret for very long.

Satanists practice magick - This one's true, after a fashion. Without wishing to write a whole dialectic on the nature of magick, it can be thought of as a way of harnessing the inate power of the human spirit to tilt probabilities very slightly toward one's objective. It is unreliable, draining and often doesn't work. When it does work, the most it can do is affect things very slightly. It cannot violate the laws of nature. We can't hurl fireballs down main street, glamour nubile young things into bed and no amount of magick can bring back the dead. If you ask for anything very much, it's going to fail. The very most you can do is very gently place your thumb on the scales of fate and if the probability is very much against what you want happening, forget it. No-one has that much power. In general, trying to do anything real by magick is going to be a pointless excercise in futility but, if you're desperate enough, sometimes it's worth a try. Even here, the ethic of reciprocity (aka the Golden Rule) holds sway. No-one but the psychopaths go around trying to level death curses on others just for the hell of it (pun intended). Oh, and the additional "K" is purely to distinguish it from the conjurer's craft of illusion, there's no spiritual or historical reason for it.

Satanists don't believe in god/spirit X - Entirely down to the individual. Some believe in no deities but Satan and Jehovah, others believe in whole hosts of them. Personally, I believe that other deities may or may not exist but this one is sacred to me.

Satanists don't help others - This is untrue. We have as many individuals of charitable intent in our ranks as any other faith. The Devil's Apocrypha (a novel which acts as a good primer to Luciferian thought) contains the line "if the lot of man is to improve, the seer must be the doer". What that means is that, if faced with injustice or suffering, it is not enough to pray about it or moan about how awful it is; get up off your knees and do something about it. So we have many charitable persons in our fold. What we do not do is talk about it. There are four reasons for that. The first is that, knowing charity came from a Satanist might disincline them from taking it. The second is that charity should not be given for plaudits. It should be something you do for it's own sake, not so that others will tell you how wonderful you are. Thirdly, knowing that charity came from a particular person (and this applies only to individuals, not to charitable bodies or governments) would create a sense of obligation to that person. The receipiant is likely to see it as a favour that must be repaid and that goes against the spirit of charity. However, if the recipient simply receives a stroke of good luck or good will, they can go on with their lives, self-sufficient and owing nothing. Finally, disclosing such charity could lead into a compteition of who is most charitable. It's not a contest.

Satanists proselytise the young - Satanists don't proselytise anyone. It is (not "commandment", that's the wrong word) strongly suggested that we not proselytise to anyone, ever. We can talk about our faith, answer questions or correct misperceptions (such as I'm doing here) but we cannot suggest someone else try it out. The whole point of Lucifer's rebellion was free will and moral self-determination. To foist our faith upon another would violate their right to make their own moral choices. That's not to say we can't intervene to prevent harm. For example, no-one is going to quibble with the Satanist who tackles an axe-weilding psycho but we cannot press our faith upon others. Each of us has their own spiritual path to walk and we learn as much, if not more, by the journey as we do by the destination. If your journey leads you to us, great. If not, that's fine too. It is your journey and no-one can walk it for you.

Satanists have wild sex - Jealous?

How do you know Satan will win? - We don't. Winning or losing the great celestial war is not the point. First off, one must realise that this is not a battle in the sense that we think of one. We're not talking here of squads of cavalry charging across plains. It's closer to trying to win the hearts and minds of a populace stuck in the middle. But whether we win or lose doesn't really matter. I like to explain by analogy: There was a time during World War II, before the Americans joined in, when Britain stood virtually alone in Europe against the Nazis. Defeat seemed certain. Should the British have surrendered? Of course not. We should have, and did, fight with every breath in our bodies for as long as we could hold out because it was morally right to do so. We hold God to be the worst dictator, the greatest monster that ever existed. Worse than Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot ever dreamed of being. Should we bend knee to a being like that? No, he is not worthy of worship, worthy of nothing except to be fought and so, we fight. Because tyrants must be fought, because it is morally right to do so. We willingly choose to damn ourselves because we cannot and will not give even nominal approval to a monster. Eternity is a very long time to live with yourself and even if we have no hope of winning, we will always know that we did what was right.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Healthcare... Yet Again

Cheeses, are we still going with this crap? Seriously? OK, let's debunk the myths one more time:

"government takeover" - No, fail, wrong. The bill currently being debated does not comprise a "government takeover" of anything. Now, I don't think a government takeover would be all that bad. I live under government healthcare here in Britain and, occasional headline-grabbing scandal aside, it's pretty damn good. But this bill doesn't amount to anything like that. All it amounts to is government creating another insurance option, just like Medicare. Medicare currently has a funding problem but that could be easily solved by, for example, the enrollment of lots more people. No-one is claiming that Medicare is perfect but it is a hell of a lot better than no option at all. And no-one would be forced to take out the government option. Under the current Bill, you would be forced to take out insurance of some kind (and I agree, that part is extremely dodgy) but the legislation does not specify what form of insurance you must take out.

"socialism / communism / fascism" - We'll do these together since they amount to the same thing. First off, fascism is an ultra-right political ideaology which has no common ground and is entirely incompatible with the other two. Anyone telling you that fascism is a left-wing ideaology is just plain lying to you. Now, the accusation of socialism is based on a very American misunderstanding of what the word means. The US is using the term to mean any sort of collective risk or responsibility. That is not what the word means. The word means that the government has sole ownership of the means of production and distribution. Would there still be competing private interests? Yes? Then it's not socialism. The US also misuses the word "communism". The idea that a communist would want to grow government is directly opposed to the basic tenets of communism. The only reason anyone in the US believes this crap is because of the Cold War and Stalin's insistence on calling his regime "communism". Stalin's regime was Soviet Communism which is a hell of a lot closer to beurocratic despotism than to Marx's vision (this should not be taken as approval for Marx's unworkable utopianism). Actual, real Communism, also known as Marxism, is much closer to collectivist anarchism than anything the Soviets came up with.

Also, what's so terrible about socialism? The US tends to treat socialism like it's some kind of virus; like if you allow even the slightest hint of socialism, the entire country becomes 1958 Moscow. It doesn't work like that. Socialism is a system of economics, you decide how much to have.

"government is inherently inefficient/corrupt" - This is complete bollocks. It only persists because the right, through it's ownership of the media, has spent thirty years telling the public that government can't do anything right, highlighting the ocasional abuse that will occur in any system as an example of the whole and the public, being deeply stupid, believes them. The US government is more inefficient than most, largely due to your system of unlimited amendments being tacked on to every bill. However, every other nation in the civilised world manages to do this without it turning into a black hole of resources. Your media, advancing the cause of the right as always, has flat-out lied to you about how bad those systems are. For the most part, they're pretty good. Yes, the ocasional scandal or outrage occurs. Does anyone honestly believe that those things do not happen in the private insurance system? And finally, if the public option would be so bad, why would anyone choose to take it? No, they're not being forced to, see my first point.

"everyone has access to healthcare" - This is both true and false. The true part is that hospitals are under a legal obligation to treat anyone who needs treatment. However, where it becomes false is that, firstly, a horrifying number of doctors disregard their Hipocratic Oath when it comes to non-insured people (there is a reason that "oathbreaker" is the worst insult in many ancient cultures). Secondly, "treatment" doesn't necessarily mean the best treatment. It's easy to find tales of people who really should have been admitted to hospital but weren't because they lacked insurance. This is by no means rare. Thirdly, according to statistical studies, an uninsured person is 40% more likely to die of any particular illness than an identical person with insurance. Because if you do not have insurance, a frightening number of doctors will do only the bare minimum to treat you (please note, I am not suggesting that such doctors are the majority; merely a worrying minority). Finally, emergency room care is the single more expensive way of delivering care. It's a lot cheaper to deliver care in the normal fashion.

"illegal immigrants will be able to use the program" - Point 1 is that this is flatly untrue. Standing law forbids illegal immigrants from taking part in any federal healthcare program and the only part of the bill which could be read to cover illegal immigrants also includes language to specifically prevent that. Point 2 and entirely seperate, so what if it did? If an illegal immigrant pays their own money into the system and gets care because of it, why is that any harm to you? No, they wouldn't get any kind of money to cover them, that's specifically prevented by language in the bill.

"death panels" - Die in a fire.

"private insurance won't be able to compete" - Again, several points to make here. Firstly, how is that your problem? How does it harm you if private insurance can't compete with the public option? Secondly, despite having a single-payer system here with full coverage from cradle to grave, we still have private insurance companies and they still make a profit. Thirdly, this one is predicated on the presumption that the public option insurance would be so cheap and so good that private insurance wouldn't be able to compete. Well, A) that's completely incompatible with the idea that government can't do anything right and B) again, how is that your problem? Now, at this point, some people might start going on about a sixth of the economy going bust. Except it won't. And it won't because the doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, etc don't work directly for the insurance companies, they work for the hospital or for themselves. They're still there, they're just claiming their fees from a different insurer than before.

"Rush / Beck / O'Reilly says..." - Anything these three say can be presumed to be a lie sight unseen.

"the bill is 1092 pages long" - So what? Really, what difference does that make? Is there some inherent connection between the length of a bill and it's quality? Of course not. Besides which, have you ever actually read a bill? They're written in very technical legalese, larded with clauses, subclauses, sections and sub-sections and loaded with "theretofore"s, "but to"s and once-in-a-lifetime exceptions. Lawyers spend four years (US) or six years (UK) studying to learn how to understand this crap. This is not layman's language, this is a very specialised, archaic dialect spoken only by lawyers and legislators. And this is why the demand to post the bill online is also pointless. The general public doesn't have the training or tools to understand the bill even if they managed to make it through the whole thing. It's not to do with intelligence (although I feel that much of the general public is dumb as a post), it's to do with a very specialised language. Law and medicine are probably the only professions where the layman feels he can blunder in and do better than the experts. People don't go up to engineers and say "you've put that bridge up wrong", they don't go around telling architects how they should design houses. Only in law and medicine does the general public feel that they know better than the experts on no more basis than their own arrogance. If you have enough knowledge to ask sensible questions, do so. Otherwise, shut the fuck up and leave it to people who actually know what they're doing.

Look, the current bill is not perfect. In fact, it's far from perfect. But it is better than what you currently have. Because it might take a fraction of a penny away from profits, the Republicans and their corporate puppetmasters are going all out to halt this but for Lord's sake, don't let them kill this. This is probably the only chance you're going to get for the next fifteen to twenty years to do something about your abomination of a healthcare system.

By the way, your blogger has given in to the Dark Side and joined Twitter. You can follow me as EbonBear if you feel like it.